Forecasters say Cyclone Meena has cleared the northern Cook Islands group and is gathering yet more force as it churns towards Rarotonga.
The Fiji Met Service has issued hurricane warnings for all islands in the southern Cooks, as winds close to the storm's centre are now reckoned to be as high as 230 kilometres an hour.
The Australian Bureau of Meteorology categorises a cyclone with these wind speeds as four on a severity scale of five.
The Bureau says these wind speeds were seen in Cyclone Tracy, which devastated Darwin in 1974.
It says this wind speed will blow caravans away and cause significant roofing loss and structural damage, along with dangerous airborne debris and widespread power failure.
Phenomenal seas are expected to cause flooding of coastal areas in Aitutaki, Rarotonga, Mangaia and Mauke as the cyclone approaches tonight.